Kenny: Yet Another Inconvenient Truth

Curiously, bizarre behavior can at once invite empathy and sympathy. It can also turn the toughest stomach. Consider a much-respected young newlywed at her wedding party. Having too quickly partaken of her first-ever two glasses of bubbly, she inadvertently permits her hemline to move this close to what only her husband’s eyes should rightly behold. It is most unlikely she would immediately be declared an adulteress and widely condemned to eternal hellfire.
On the contrary, it’s a safe bet the over-excited young bride would quickly be rescued without the smallest change to her impeccable reputation. Now, say the victim of the wardrobe malfunction was a well-known lubricious dancer for money, a habitual flasher . . . Ah, but you say that’s a totally different variety of salt fish. And few would disagree. Which all goes to prove yet again the facticity of Voltaire’s “once a philosopher, twice a pervert!”
I would be hard-pressed to declare our prime minister anything but well schooled, academically as well as politically. But then how to explain his several televised nationally embarrassing about-faces, whether related to election-time ID cards, laws that on the one hand he had declared oppressive and anti-worker, and then not long afterward pronounced “necessary and inevitable?” Pointless listing here the other instances altogether indicative of a schizophrenic nature.
Consider his address, delivered this week at the signing ceremony for the financing agreement between his government and the Inter-American Development Bank to establish a national competitiveness and productivity council. Now, immediately the astute reader will be wondering what precisely is a competitiveness and productivity council.
I, too, wondered, alas to no avail, unless of course the answer is to be found in the following, taken from the prime minister’s address: “The only way we can survive as a country is if each individual—whether it be at the firm level, government- departmental level or personal level—makes a commitment to compete. By compete I do not only mean competing with one another, but importantly I refer to the nurturing of a character that would allow you to compete with your own best to continuously strive to do better: achieve more with less, constantly ensuring that you are achieving your purpose.”
It might help the reader better understand the above if I should also reproduce what precedes it, taken from the prime minister’s most recent address to the nation a fortnight or so ago: “In Saint Lucia wages have been growing at a rapid pace while productivity has been declining. To put it more plainly, some persons are being paid more for producing less . . . If we base wage increases only on inflation and not productivity or our ability to pay, we are actually making our country poorer and making the goods and services less attractive to the outside world.
I am especially concerned about the identity of these traitors who, according to the prime minister, continue to be “paid more for doing less.”
Who is paying them more for doing less—and why? Was the prime minister referring to public servants enticed from the private sector and paid negotiated salaries far in excess of what earlier they were paid? In any event, since the prime minister was referencing his public sector, who else but him must take final responsibility, not only for the acknowledged costly egregious work ethic but also for its consequences: “making our country poorer” and our goods and services “less attractive to the outside world?”
How long has this nauseating state of affairs been going on? How much longer before it comes to an end?
But to return to what the prime minister considers “the only way we can survive” the cited public sector scivers: “Competing with one
another . . .” and nurturing a character that would allow us to compete with our own best . . . and “achieve more with less.” Here I am reminded of the consequences of privatizing the banana industry and encouraging farmers to compete with one another. Suffice it to say the result was not an improvement in the national character!
Bearing in mind his own astute observation, why has the prime minister not set the ball rolling by helping the public service achieve more with less? Why has he not disposed of the vampires, in particular those living high on the hog at great expense to local taxpayers. Where is the evidence that they have ever demonstrated an interest in the notion of value for money, let alone working in the public interest? Does anyone keep tabs on these public officers? What do they do that is not strictly in their own private interest?
Yes, I refer yet again to our now anachronistic, always too expensive overseas embassies and ask for the hundredth time: What precisely do their handpicked staff  do for the good and trusting citizens of Saint Lucia who continue to suffer the consequences of paying multi-millions every year for services never rendered? What projects have they ever sent our way? What exactly do their diplomatic services entail that in this age could not be conducted from home base
As for “nurturing” this new national character that would ensure achievement, how exactly do we go about that? Will our parliamentarians be participants in the multi-million-dollar course that’s supposed to change Saint Lucians from what the prime minister in the same speech described as “a society characterized by patronage and skepticism?”
Who encourages this “patronage and skepticism?” Who will be the teachers of this character-altering course? What is this “systemic manner” that the government is determined to employ for our own sake at “both the public and private sector levels?” By definition the disease of “patronage” could not thrive without patrons. So who better to do something salutary about the cited problem than the man who cited it this week? As for the “skepticism” aspect, let the reader check the word and decide whether or not the people of Saint Lucia have reason to be skeptical about our leaders and their incessant empty promises, all of which belong in the been-there-done-that category
We get a small hint of the government’s innovative thinking from the following: “While government is in the process of implementing a number of strategies: short-term, medium-term and long-term [STEP, NICE etc?], we recognize that the chance of success in dealing with this growth challenge lies primarily in our ability to come together as a people, not just formally but through coalitions that would link the public and private sectors in a structured way. These coalitions should allow for inclusivity and encourage the exchange of ideas.” You know, as occurs in parliament where MPs have a variety of court cases pending against each other.
After all of that, this: “We recognize we do not each have the answer to any problem facing us and so, through the establishment of this mechanism, we would create a medium to analyze the issues affecting business and growth. The country should then begin to tackle the twin issues of competitiveness and productivity.”
Isn’t it yet clear the issues affecting business and growth in Saint Lucia have little relationship with what we do here but rather with what is going on elsewhere? What can we do about attracting back to our shores, the thousands who no longer visit, simply because they cannot afford to, are jobless, homeless and on the brink? What can we do here to attract more visitors from our own region, now that air transportation and other factors have cut the number by almost half? For crying out loud, it costs almost as much to fly to Barbados as it does to Miami.
Presumably, our genius captains of commerce that attended this week’s IDB meeting but had no questions for the prime minister, for whatever reasons, understood clearly what the hell he was talking about. Surely they know only too well the reasons our manufacturers cannot compete with Trinidad, why we cannot compete with countries from whom we must import all our raw materials with little help from our own government that can hardly wait to rip from our behinds its pound of flesh.
Clearly it’ll be a long time before better day for Victims of Anthony Taxes, otherwise known as VAT!

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